South Africa v India, 2nd Test, Durban, 4th day December 29, 2010

Famous victory part of a winning habit

India's celebrations after one of their best away wins were a sign of their increasing familiarity with Test success overseas

At 1.40pm on the hottest day of the tour, two sets of Indian players gathered around each set of stumps at Kingsmead. Cheteshwar Pujara had just produced a fine fielding effort at forward short leg, running out the last man, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who had only as much as overbalanced while keeping out a full delivery. In a flash, Pujara fielded and hit the stumps direct. Everybody was awaiting the third umpire's verdict, but the Indians wanted to be close to the stumps. Even before the third umpires' decision could be relayed, a signal came from the dressing room. Tsotsobe was short, the Test was won, another hoodoo venue was conquered, and the stumps came out.

Harbhajan Singh plucked the first one. Zaheer Khan, the architect of the bowling revival, got another. Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni got one each too. The Man of the Match, VVS Laxman, was in the dressing room, nursing the bad back that has failed to keep him from delivering three match-winning knocks in second innings this year, and another to save one. The celebrations, though, weren't over the top. This might have been only their second win in this country, these might have been the most alien of conditions for them, they might have proved many a critic wrong with this one, but the team likes to believe this is more of a routine affair than the away wins in the past.

Four years ago, when India won at the Wanderers, they ran around the field pouring soft drinks over each other. One could sense that perhaps they had exceeded their own expectations. This one was calmer, not nearly as emotional, despite the debacle in Centurion. Most of the fun was had before the win. Paul Harris, who had things to say about Sreesanth in the press, walked out to a slow clap from the bowler. Harris was later cornered and given a nice dosage of short deliveries by Ishant Sharma, who - when he was batting - had the South African side in his ear as he awaited the third umpire's decision. Harris held his ground well, gutting it out for close to an hour, but Zaheer's away-going delivery to take the top of his off stump would have been too good even for specialist batsmen.

Before that Zaheer worked over Dale Steyn, welcoming him with a bouncer, and toying around before proceeding to do him with an away-moving delivery from round the stumps. Zaheer had faced a rough time himself when adding 70 - the exact number of runs he added for the same wicket from the same score with Laxman during the Wanderers win - for the eighth wicket. He was hit on the helmet by Steyn, and was seen in argument with the opposition captain when he swung and missed at Tsotsobe.

Even before that, Sreesanth produced perhaps the image of the series. Technically Jacques Kallis is as good as they come, but here he was, both feet in the air, bent almost parallel to the ground, the back arched spectacularly to keep his head out of harm's way, the bottom hand off the bat, forming a reversed human C. Still the ball bounced so high from just back of a length that it took the top wrist and ballooned for an easy catch to gully. By the time an X-ray revealed that Kallis only had a soft tissue bruise, the game was over as a contest.

However, when the victory came, India's fourth such response to innings defeats over the last three years, they were back to normal, suggesting there was no big deal about it. Dhoni later said every win is special, be it Kanpur, Kolkata or Kingsmead. Don't believe him. This team was under the pump after Centurion. Even those who have witnessed their comebacks over the last two years doubted if they would be able to do so against South Africa in South Africa - particularly after they won the toss on an overcast morning, and found that the conditions were even more difficult than in Centurion where they were bowled out for 136. Those who have not witnessed their comebacks ridiculed their No. 1 ranking.

This one has to rank alongside Perth 2008, Trent Bridge 2007, Jamaica 2006, Wanderers 2006, Galle 2008 and P Sara 2010. Some might argue that Perth was a bigger show of character because they were coming back from an acrimonious nail-biter that had put them 0-2 behind, but perhaps more was at stake here.

There are common themes too. Like here, Wanderers, Perth, Trent Bridge and P Sara featured lower-order contributions and Laxman, even though he didn't necessarily run away with the honours. Like here, Zaheer led the bowling at Trent Bridge and Wanderers. Here Zaheer did the job Anil Kumble did in Jamaica and Galle, not necessarily taking five-fors but providing the bowling unit with some control. Except for Galle and P Sara, all have been bowling tracks, a traditional weakness.

Perhaps the celebrations weren't wild because the team doesn't want to look back. It wants to look ahead to Cape Town, where, on a turning track four years ago, they squandered an opportunity to win a series in South Africa. How well they do there in three days' time will be an indicator as to whether Kingsmead-like wins have indeed become a routine affair for India.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ramachandra on January 4, 2011, 8:33 GMT

    Very balanced comments from SFGoldenGate, bro...would like to see more comments like yours...all the best both teams for the 3rd match!

  • fabian on January 1, 2011, 22:49 GMT

    I don't want to sound like a broken record,but to all of the Indian brothers out there saying 'jealous' pakistanis etc I want to say I'm from Pakistan and am definitely not 'jealous' that you guys have been doing so well. I mean it's no fluke team India have just beaten the Proteas in their own back yard. I have grown up in London & even though it might disappoint all you 'haters' out there some of my best mates are Indian. So once again, from a Pakistani I CONGRATULATE team India. We talk about diversity etc but look no further than the Indian Cricket team. So all those 'haters' out there saying shameful things about one another....Hindu this.....Muslim that.... Everytime sehwag or Tendulkar hits a ton or Zaheer get's a wicket just think about what you're saying. We are all brothers & if you still can't see that then shame on you!! Pakistan & India ZINDABAD!!

  • HARIHARASUDHAN on December 31, 2010, 14:10 GMT

    pure;),, ok.. Indian Team is always a brlliant talented n counter punch guys.. who has spirit and passion in game and morely the respect to game... so they can able to counter at any situations.. SAans showed aggression guts more thru words and sledging and little discipline.unlike SAans Indians showed character and calm minded built with intent and skill to win for India..mere anger and words wont give anything easily.. hardwork paves way for win... Indians did n doing for long time jus to win not to conquer or to dominate the cricket world they wanted to be best with cricket passion.but finally Indians ll come hard to win wit ruthless behaviour by bat ball n field to demolish SA as they ll also come in similar fashion.. so there ll be a sparkling new year contest bet INDIA vs RSA. cheers.. Good Luck India.. happy NEW YEAR 2011...;)

  • Seano on December 31, 2010, 7:56 GMT

    South Africa for the win in Cape Town.!!! There is no way we will surrender a series to India in SA. We will come back ruthless and clinical. India played well in two and a bit sessions of the Durban test match. We have now learnt that at 56 for 4 and 90 for 5 we have to up the ante and kill them off....

    Pure Proteas 100% South African!!!

  • Anver on December 31, 2010, 7:01 GMT

    Indians must thank VVS & Zak for their efforts in the 2nd test.......I predict a draw in 3rd test & series 1 all !!

  • ABHIJIT on December 30, 2010, 22:30 GMT

    I don't get it when people talk about fortuitous wicket of Kallis or poor lbw decisions helped India won this match. deVillers got out to Bhajji in the Kolkata test in similar fashion. coming of a brilliant hundred, you don't play a half-hearted shot like that. with the naked eye, the umpire was damn right to give it out. still don't understand how hawkeye says the ball will go over top of stumps. point is AB was under pressure. on Boucher lbw, he was shouldering arms to a ball that's not even rising & umpire will give out 95% of the time with a naked eye. Kallis' run out. are u kidding me. backing up on 2nd day of a test match chasing 200 runs by a home side team. what was he thinking? take a single of every other ball? and then that Pietersen wicket. it was a fast ball that clipped the pads and then to stumps. The ball didn't just bounce on the crease and then danced around to hit the wkt like the Vaughn wkt in '07. so cheers IND for the win and let's make a game of the 3rd test.

  • fabian on December 30, 2010, 17:23 GMT

    This is to the brothers....Mits6....Majr...Jayashok and all those others who are 'clued-up' out there...Enough Respect boys it's nice to know I aint the only one!! What a breath of fresh air.

  • arnav on December 30, 2010, 16:25 GMT

    Hi Guys...many congrats to Indian team nd to our fellow countrymen for that spectacular and so deserved win.. Dont worry abt other country guys comments.. They just do it bcoz thier teams aren't doing it according to thier expectations..poor empathatic towards them.. They might praise any other team if they had won in same fashion...but unfortunate to them,we won it...ecstatic..woooowwwww....... Come on INDIA.. East or West INDIA i the BEST.. Go GOO GOOO GOOOO..... Conquer the Final Frontier and make them shut... and US PROUD....

  • Arokia on December 30, 2010, 15:10 GMT

    Indian team we are proud of you. I remember when India claimed the no.1 spot many so called wisemen cannot accept the fact; they have been continuously shouting loud that India should play SL in SL, NL in NL, SA in SA. Now there is no need for anymore proof that only India deserves no.1. I guess that India will register a innings win in Capetown..really I am not over excited.

  • Vincent on December 30, 2010, 14:46 GMT


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